UVa Research Could Bring New Hope to Melanoma Patients

A UVa research team led by Tarek Abbas, PhD, of the Department of Radiation Oncology, has discovered a new melanoma-fighting drug.

Clinically known as pevonedistat, the drug targets the protein CDT2 and halts the spread of cancerous cells.

Photo courtesy Nathan Berry
Photo courtesy Nathan Berry

Unlike other treatments that only deal with mutations in the BRAF and NRAS genes, pevonedistat inhibits the pathways of cancer-causing proteins directly regardless of specific genomic mutations.

In experimental trials, UVa researchers became optimistic about pevonedistat’s implications.

Abbas explains that the phenotypic output of patients treated with the new drug resembles “the impact of silencing genetic output.” In other words, pevonedistat suppresses the critical CDT2 pathway and in doing so, produces an anti-cancer effect.

Additionally, the team found that pevonedistat has an additive effect when combined with various treatments and can therefore act on tumors resistant to other drugs.

When asked about his work at UVA, Abbas explained how he has benefitted from working with people of many different disciplines.
“UVa is one of the few places where there is a connection between the researchers and the clinicians,” Abbas noted.

He likewise explained that his experiences at UVa have allowed him to explore more aspects of medicine than if he had been somewhere else.

Pevonedistat is currently in phase two of FDA clinical trials and if all goes well, could be released in the next few years. While the new treatment will affect patients recently diagnosed with melanoma, Abbas is also excited to help those who have failed treatments in the past.

“A subset of patients now have a second hope, a second chance, through this new treatment,” said Abbas.

The UVa research team consists of Mouadh Benamar, Fadila Guessous, Kangping Du, Patrick Corbett, Joseph Obeid, Daniel Gioeli, Craig L. Slingluff Jr. and Abbas.


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